by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
Blake and his wife have been walking for nearly an hour and now he steps off the sidewalk, onto the grass and across the autumn leaves. They have been walking, neither saying a word, and Blake needs to hear
the crunching of the dry leaves beneath his feet, wants to have some kind of sound between them.
He thinks of taking her arm, but it is enough for him to veer off whatever course they’re on. She follows.
He wants to hold her hand, but is unsure—they’ve spent so much time apart—so he shoves both of his into pants pockets, his wedding ring catching on the double-stitched denim edge. He pulls his hand up, angles it and pushes it down again.
Blake glances at Gail, wonders if she’s aware that he’s wearing the ring again, if she’d care.
He sighs because he wants her attention and he can think of nothing else to do. He gives her a weak smile when she glances over at him.
It’s her fault, Gail thinks. She shouldn’t’ve have called him when the dog was hit by the car, the night she’d taken Lacey jogging. He’d rushed to them, held Gail as she held the bloody golden retriever, three hearts racing until one stopped.
But no, no, the pet had been as much his as hers.
What she shouldn’t’ve done was let him to stay the night they buried her. Too many nights following.
She needs to say something. About him getting his dirty, crumpled clothes off her bedroom floor and back to his across town. About his misplacing the silver band—on his finger. About the disparity between reopening one’s legs and reopening one’s heart.
Gail has Blake’s full attention. She doesn’t smile as he looks at her.
Blake knows Gail is about to tell him something, but he shuffles his feet against the leaves, cuts her off. “Remember when we’d spend Saturday afternoons raking leaves and Lacey would bound through the
piles? How we all ended up rolling around in them?” he asks.
Gail remembers more than she has time to discuss. She frowns, takes a breath. “Don’t,” she tells him, shaking her head.
Blake reaches for her but already she’s moving out of his range.
“If Lacey were here this moment,” she says, her voice hushed as the grass beneath her feet, “you wouldn’t be.”